'Today' Exec on Story Behind Melania Trump Plane Interview Gone Viral
The clip of her telling Matt Lauer that she wrote her own speech "with as little help as possible" has been played and picked up repeatedly as allegations have surfaced that portions of the speech were plagiarized from Michelle Obama's remarks in 2008.
NBC News had a viral moment on its hands less than 24 hours into the Republican National Convention when a clip of Melania Trump telling Today anchor Matt Lauer that she wrote her convention speech “with as little help as possible” became a central element in the plagiarism allegations that mushroomed Monday night. The interview took place earlier in the day Monday — on the Trump private jet — as Melania and Donald Trump were arriving in Cleveland for the first day of the convention.
The clip first aired on NBC’s primetime convention coverage Monday night, before Melania delivered her remarks. Of course, once the similarities between her speech and Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention came to light, the clip began playing ad nauseam, with the "NBC News Exclusive" logo in the corner, across the content landscape.
Today executive and NBC News svp Noah Oppenheim told The Hollywood Reporter that the Trump campaign has not complained nor asked that the interview be taken down.
"We’re not out there pushing it,” said Oppenheim. "Other people have picked up on it. When it [first] aired it was completely innocuous.”
Additional portions of Lauer’s interview ran Tuesday morning on Today. Lauer had been personally pursuing the Trumps for a joint interview to kick off to what many expect to be a raucous GOP convention at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. And NBC News is actively pursuing a new interview with Melania, as is nearly everyone else in the media.
"The Today show has made a commitment to try to drive the agenda this election cycle, and I think what we’ve seen in the last 24 hours is a year’s worth of hard work and relationships paying off,” added Oppenheim. “You don’t get that interview on the plane overnight. Matt has been working to build a relationship with the Trump campaign over the course of the last year.”
The Today show, as well as NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt, will broadcast from the convention for the rest of the week before heading to Philadelphia on Sunday to begin covering the Democratic convention. And the coup comes as Today has regained the lead this season in the critical 25-54 demographic over ABC's Good Morning America, which still leads among total viewers.
In a statement released early Tuesday morning, the Trump campaign said that Melania’s speech writers “took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking.”
But as of early Tuesday afternoon ET, Donald Trump had yet to revert to his traditional blame-the-media posture to beat back the allegations, preferring, for now, to let others do the talking.
Trump supporter Chris Christie appeared live on Today to defend Melania, telling Lauer that “93 percent of the speech is completely different than Michelle Obama’s speech” and adding that the speeches “expressed some common thoughts.”
Christie's "93 percent" sound bite also has generated a great deal of attention. Meanwhile, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has also dismissed the allegations and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has characterized the controversy as a “distraction."
Melania Trump's comments, as that portion of the interview aired on Tuesday's Today, can be seen below.